The Guardian have dredged up a US meteorologist, Paul Douglas, to come up with a list of “extreme” weather events, which he then uses to claim that climate change is making worse.
Whatever happened to normal weather? Earth has always experienced epic storms, debilitating drought, and biblical floods. But lately it seems the treadmill of disruptive weather has been set to fast-forward. God’s grandiose Symphony of the Seasons, the natural ebb and flow of the atmosphere, is playing out of tune, sounding more like a talent-free second grade orchestra, with shrill horns, violins screeching off-key, cymbal crashes coming in at the wrong time. Something has changed.
Let’s start by looking at some of his claims:
A warmer atmosphere is increasing water vapor levels overhead, juicing storms, fueling an increase in flash floods in the summer, and heavier winter snows along the East Coast of the USA. “All storms are 5 to 10 percent stronger in terms of heavy rainfall” explained Dr. Kevin Trenberth, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “It means what was a very rare event is now not quite so rare.”
Yet even the IPCC tell us they can find no evidence that floods are getting bigger or more frequent on a worldwide basis:
And as far as the US is concerned, the USGS say:
Only one of four large regions of the United States showed a significant relationship between carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and the size of floods over the last 100 years. This was in the southwestern region, where floods have become smaller as CO2 has increased.
Storms? Surely any US meteorologist worth his salt must know that tornadoes have been getting much less frequent, and, more particularly, less violent since the 1970s.
He goes on to rehash the thoroughly discredited theory of Jennifer Francis that Arctic warming is making the jet stream more sluggish and wavy, bringing weather blocks.
If he had bothered reading HH Lamb, he might have found out that the same sort of weather was occurring when the world was cooling after the Second World War. This was what Lamb had to say in his volume, “Climate, History and The Modern World”:
ANOTHER TURNING POINT
Over the years since the 1940’s, it has become apparent that many of the tendencies in world climate which marked the previous 50 to 80 years or more have either ceased or changed…. It was only after the Second World War that the benign trend of the climate towards general warming over those previous decades really came in for much scientific discussion and began to attract public notice.
Such worldwide surveys as have been attempted seem to confirm the increase of variability of temperature and rainfall [since 1950].’’
In Europe, there is a curious change in the pattern of variability: from some time between 1940 and 1960 onwards, the occurrence of extreme seasons – both as regards temperature and rainfall has notably increased.
A worldwide list of the extreme seasons reported since 1960 makes impressive reading. Among the items included:
1960-9 – Driest decade in central Chile since 1770’s and 1790’s.
1962-3 Coldest winter in England since 1740.
1962-5 Driest four-year period in the eastern United States since records began in 1738.
1963-4 Driest winter in England & Wales since 1743; coldest winter over an area from the lower Volga basin and Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf since 1745.
1965-6 Baltic Sea completely ice covered.
1968 Arctic sea ice half surrounded Iceland for the first time since 1888.
1968-73 Severest phase thus far of the prolonged drought in the Sahel, surpassing all 20thC experience.
1971-2 Coldest winter in more than 200 yrs in parts of European Russia and Turkey: River Tigris frozen over.
1972 Greatest heatwave in the long records for north Finland and northern Russia.
1973-4 Floods beyond all previous recorded experience stretching across the central Australian desert.
1974-5 Mildest winter in England since 1834.
1975-6 Great European drought produced the most severe soil moisture deficit that can be established in the London (Kew) records since 1698.
1975-6 Greatest heatwaves in the records for Denmark, Netherlands and England.
1976-7 Severest winter in the temperature records (which began in 1738) for the eastern United States.
1978-9 Severest winter and lowest temperature recorded in 200 yrs in parts of northern Europe, and perhaps in the Moscow region. Snowfalls also extreme in parts of northern Europe.
This shortened list omits most of the notable events reported in the southern hemisphere and other parts of the world where instrument records do not extend so far back. Cases affecting the intermediate seasons, the springs and autumns, have also been omitted.
These variations, perhaps more than any underlying trend to a warmer or colder climate, create difficulties for the planning age in which we live. They may be associated with the increased meridionality of the general wind circulation, the greater frequency of blocking, of stationary high and low pressure systems, giving prolonged northerly winds in one longitude and southerly winds in another longitude sector in middle latitudes.
Over both hemispheres there has been more blocking in these years… The most remarkable feature seems to be the an intensification of the cyclonic activity in high latitudes near 70-90N, all around the northern polar region. And this presumably has to do with the almost equally remarkable cooling of the Arctic since the 1950’s, which has meant an increase in the thermal gradient between high and middle latitudes.
He then goes full Guardian !
Pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV to see signs of climate volatility sparking more weather disruption. From the mega-blaze that swept across Fort McMurray, Alberta to repeated flooding of Houston, scorching heat in India, perpetual drought from California to Australia, and a record year for global hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones in 2015, the symptoms of a warming ecosystem are becoming harder to dismiss or deny.
We already know that the so called mega blaze in Alberta is small from a historical perspective, has nothing to do with climate change and would have made little news if man had not built a city in the middle of the wilderness where such things happen all the time.
And what nonsense is this about drought?
There may have been a drought in California recently, one that is certainly not in any way unprecedented, but for the US as a whole, NOAA’s own figures show that droughts are much less common, or severe, in recent decades than they used to be in the past.
Not only are rainfall totals consistently higher than the past, but the percentage of land area in decile1, the driest category, is also sharply down. This indicates that the extra rainfall has been widespread, rather than simply extreme in just a few areas.
And Accumulated Cyclone Energy stats do not support the contention that global warming is making hurricanes worse.
Of course, weather and climate continually change. I have little doubt that in some places and at certain times extreme weather has increased, and no doubt too that in others the reverse is true.
What is sad about these pathetic little attempts to blame everything on global warming is that they stop us having a balanced and objective debate on the subject.
The real reason, however, for this story is revealed when Douglas tells us:
In my upcoming book I interview 11 veteran television meteorologists in the United States. All of them are witnessing symptoms of climate change in their hometowns.
Recent political developments across the region have prompted celebratory proclamations in the mainstream Western press that Latin America’s decades-long dominance by left-leaning governments is reaching its terminal stages. The landslide victory of the Venezuelan opposition in last December’s legislative elections, the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, and the triumph of center-right candidate Mauricio Macri in Argentina’s presidential election do indeed seem to point to a region-wide decline in the fortunes of the parties of the Pink Tide. But as is so often the case in the mainstream media, commentators have been too quick to make current events fit neatly into overarching seismic shifts. The cursory and often incomplete news reports on which they are based simply do not provide sufficient support for such catchall explanations. While scholars have naturally initiated a more nuanced and detailed debate to consider whether the region is indeed witnessing the end of a progressive cycle, press analyses have struck a premature and in many cases triumphalist tone by declaring the collapse of the Latin American left both imminent and beyond serious doubt.
In reality, it is the exact opposite that is beyond serious doubt: it is far too early to write off the future of the left in Latin America. Moreover, more research is needed to understand the dynamics of these movements and how things might play out in the coming months and years. But what is most disconcerting about these knee-jerk press responses is that the people making them seem to not even have a strong grasp of the basic facts surrounding the political developments on which they base their claims, let alone of the nuance needed to develop a sophisticated analysis. In a survey of the media declarations of the purportedly imminent collapse of the Latin American left, COHA has found a shocking collection of glaring and demonstrably false statements over basic matters of fact that reveal the profoundly slipshod nature of their research.
The salience of these findings can hardly be overstated: if journalists in the mainstream media cannot even get basic facts correct, they can hardly be trusted to provide a meaningful analysis of the larger picture.
As predictable as the jeers from the DC commentariat were, perhaps the one figure within the Beltway punditry class who could have been most counted on to react gloatingly to the recent setbacks of leftist governments in Latin America was The Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl. Having been a reliable war hawk and right-wing militarist at the Post’s op-ed section since the late 1970s, Diehl was quick to turn his wrath on Pink Tide leaders and their supposedly grave threat to U.S. national security interests. In 2010 he repeated American Enterprise Institute scholar Roger Noriega’s accusation that then-President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez was collaborating with Iran in the development of nuclear capabilities. In 2013 he accused the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador of “gutting democratic institutions in their countries,” and described Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa as “Latin America’s chief caudillo and Yanqui-baiter.”
His characterization of the latest political developments, inexplicably posted at the Charleston-based Post and Courier rather than his home publication, fits seamlessly with this record of hysterical hyperbole and dubious accuracy. In the article’s first sentence he triumphantly announces: “The encouraging news from Latin America is that the leftist populists who for 15 years undermined the region’s democratic institutions and wrecked its economies are being pushed out — not by coups and juntas, but by democratic and constitutional means.” From this outrageously loaded misrepresentation he quickly moves on to outright falsehoods by claiming that Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was “vanquished in a presidential election.” From a simple Google search one can learn that she was in fact not even a candidate in last year’s presidential election. Apparently Diehl cannot even get past his article’s second sentence without revealing his stupefying ignorance of the most basic of facts.
Aside from blatant inaccuracies, he also makes the remarkable claim that “most of the Western hemisphere is studiously ignoring this meltdown,” despite the fact that Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, has been calling for months to invoke the OAS Democratic Charter against Venezuela. If he is referring not to the OAS but rather to the leaders of the region’s governments, then he is simply confusing their indifference for Washington’s isolation in its condemnations of the Maduro government. Just as the United States was completely isolated in its refusal to recognize Maduro’s election victory in 2013, so it has been alone in calling for sanctions, for which it has lobbied on the basis of largely spurious allegations of human rights violations.
To round out his diatribe, Diehl then describes the “obstacles” to getting a recall referendum to remove President Maduro as “comically steep,” despite the fact that all of the figures he cites regarding the required numbers of petition signatures (which opposition activists need to gather to trigger the recall vote) are calculated from terms set out in Venezuela’s Constitution. By representing the recall referendum as offering the “slim remaining hopes for a democratic solution,” he implies that some sort of extra-democratic methods might be necessary, and presumably also justified. Keep in mind that the provision for a recall referendum to remove a sitting president is a democratic mechanism that scarcely exists in any constitution besides Venezuela’s.
Rafael Ruiz Velasco
In an article published at the PanAm Post, Rafael Ruiz Velasco is just as hasty in his passage of judgment on the fate of Latin America’s left. He announces confidently that “the results are clear: the bet on socialism in Latin America has failed.” But like Diehl, Velasco makes at least one glaring factual error that undermines his already highly suspect piece. He says of Brazil: “The Olympics will be held with a politically defeated Dilma Rousseff out of office, as she faces impeachment on corruption charges.” The truth of the matter is that Rousseff is in fact one of the few leading Brazilian politicians not to be facing corruption charges. Her impeachment was rather premised on vague accusations of fiscal mismanagement and budgetary irregularities—hardly the high crimes that under normal circumstances would merit removal from office. Her replacement Michel Temer, on the other hand, does presently stand accused of corruption, and not over minor allegations either. In addition to being implicated in the country’s ongoing Petrobras scandal, he also stands accused of illegal financing during the 2014 elections; the exact kinds of things, ironically, that would normally be legitimate grounds for impeachment.
Either Velasco is conveniently ignoring these facts, or else just has a very weak understanding of the details of what is taking place in Brazilian politics. Indeed, much else in his article makes one wonder whether he is engaging in willful misrepresentation or is just plain clueless. To give just one example, Velasco describes Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Ignácio da Silva, as Brazil’s “figureheads of failure,” in spite of the four electoral victories they have won between them. Leveling this smear against da Silva, whose widespread popularity led to him being affectionately known as Lula, is particularly absurd given that he won both of his presidential election victories with over 60 percent of the vote and left office with 80 percent approval ratings.
In an article for Foreign Policy magazine, provocatively titled “How Brazil’s Left Destroyed Itself,” Antonio Sampaio pulls no punches in his characterization of Rousseff’s impeachment, claiming that it “marks the final fall from grace not only of the president but also of her ruling Workers’ Party, which has run the country for 13 years.” But one can only feel confounded when Sampaio concedes further down the article that “supporters of the government are right to point out that Rousseff herself is one of the few high-profile political figures who has not been accused of abusing her office for personal enrichment. (Her impeachment is related to alleged manipulation of public accounts to disguise a deficit).” This stands in blatant contradiction to how he begins the article, with the claim that “the biggest corruption scandal in national history is revealing the extent to which Rousseff and her allies actively contributed to the rot of Brazil’s democratic institutions.” It is simply unfathomable how he can lay the blame for the damage done to Brazil’s institutions by this scandal at the feet of Dilma Rousseff when he concedes in the same article that her impeachment has nothing to do with corruption. But in the world of Western press coverage of Latin America, this kind Orwellian doublethink does not seem to matter even when such contradictory statements are being made in the very same article.
Chicago Tribune/Orlando Sentinel
In a “Guest Editorial” in the Orlando Sentinel, the editors of the Chicago Tribune (I’m confused too) argue that the next U.S. president “will need to engage Latin America with a lot more purpose and resolve,” or else “Russia, Iran and China will.” To their credit, they do concede that the recent setbacks of leftist leaders “do not necessarily mean a complete, sweeping repudiation of leftist populism,” since “the gap between the impoverished masses and the few wealthy elite still defines life for much if not all of the continent.” But rather than providing legitimate justifications for progressive policies, this grinding poverty and gross inequality apparently makes these countries “susceptible” to what they term “leftist agendas.”
But in addition to this patronizing jeer, the Tribune editors also make the exact same factual error as Jackson Diehl by claiming that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner “lost her re-election bid to Argentine center-right leader Mauricio Macri last fall.” At the risk of repeating it ad nauseam, Kirchner did not stand in the election, and, moreover, was not even able to since the Argentine Constitution sets a limit of two consecutive presidential terms. Granted, her ruling Justicialist Party lost control of the executive to Macri’s rival Republican Proposal party, but the candidate for the Justicialists was Daniel Scioli (a former vice-president during the administration of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s husband and predecessor Nestor Kirchner). To those who might try to dismiss this correction as mere nitpicking, imagine what people in the United States would have thought if a foreign newspaper had reported in November 2008 that U.S. President George W. Bush had lost his re-election bid to Barack Obama. Such shoddy journalism would have surely delivered an instantly fatal blow to the publication’s credibility. But when a U.S. publication demonstrates an exactly analogous ignorance of basic facts about Latin America, its unfounded pronouncements and flimsy arguments still get taken seriously.
Further revealing their risible political illiteracy, the Tribune editors claim that the setbacks for the Latin American left have “all happened with virtually no coddling or stoking from the U.S.” Either the authors have never read anything about the United States’ covert funding of Venezuelan opposition candidates and its threats of sanctions against the Maduro government, the meetings between major regional right-wing figures and allies in the U.S. Congress, and the United States’ use of international organizations to weaken left-leaning governments, or else they are being deliberately duplicitous (and presumably take their readers for a bunch of idiots to boot). The Tribune editors conclude with the unbelievably sweeping statement that the region’s populations are “fed up with failed leftist policies.”
This last statement neatly sums up the central message that these articles wish to communicate: that any policies that don’t fit the Anglo-American model of unfettered neoliberal capitalism “don’t work” and that though people might at first naively support them, they end up getting disillusioned and begrudgingly come to the realization that neoliberalism is the only viable economic system after all. Though they might not spell it out quite so obligingly, the message is essentially a repetition of Margaret Thatcher’s infamous claim that “there is no alternative” to free markets, free trade, and capitalist globalization. The presentation of the recent setbacks of Latin American left governments as confirmation of this seems to be a deliberate jibe directed at the many people the world over who hold up Latin America as humanity’s beacon of hope for providing a more just, generous, and sustainable way of life.
But though these setbacks of the Pink Tide should not be reflexively explained away and the diminishment in popular support for its parties should not be discounted, there are important distinctions and qualifiers that cast doubt on such a rash declaration of victory for neoliberal orthodoxy. Lest we forget, it was less than a decade ago that an economic crash plunged world economies into disarray and prompted no less a figure than Alan Greenspan to admit that free market ideology is flawed.
First, it is important to make the distinction between a decline in support for the Pink Tide’s parties and support for their policies. Research has suggested that voting publics in Latin America have not become any less supportive of such policies, but rather are becoming disaffected with how they are being administered by those in charge. A poll by Poliarquía in the run up to the 2015 Argentine presidential election, for instance, found that 50 percent of respondents were in favor not of a return to the policies of the pre-Kirchner years, but rather “continuity with change.” As Raanan Rein, a professor of Latin American and Spanish history at Tel Aviv University, put it: “The left lost more than the right won.” He added: “It wasn’t that Macri became so popular, it was simply that his predecessors, the Kirchners, destroyed Peronism.” In other words, what is needed is not a relapse back to tooth and nail neoliberalism, but rather a new and more effective leadership to build on the alternatives that were first attempted by the leftist old guard. The many achievements that resulted from these policies include: expanded access to public services such as healthcare and education; radically reduced poverty and child malnutrition; widespread construction of new homes for those in need; and a significant pushback against the brutal realities of income and wealth inequality that have long plagued the region. Many of these policies’ merits have been recognized by international organizations including the United Nations, the Carter Center, and even the World Bank. Perhaps the most revolutionary of all the changes implemented by the Pink Tide governments were the drafting of new constitutions that guarantee social, political and economic rights to all citizens, and also include unprecedented protections for marginalized groups such as women and indigenous people, and even for nature.
To be sure, legitimate feelings of betrayal exist throughout the region and it is important to hold progressive governments accountable for their share of errors in confronting the economic downturn or failing to prepare for a rainy day. But though many voters might express their anger at the governing Pink Tide parties for their mistakes and lack of foresight by abstaining or even casting a protest vote for the right-wing opposition, this does not indicate a wholehearted endorsement of these parties’ proposals, far less a desire for a return to neoliberalism and the structural adjustment era of the 1980s and 1990s.
Of course, there is also the natural and universal tendency in all societies for people to gradually tire of their governments (regardless of success or failure), to take for granted the gains that were made, and to forget the bad aspects of what came before. All governments, like all human enterprises generally, are deeply imperfect and are not, in Latin America least of all, immune from risks of corruption and other malign influences. But these negative factors are hardly unique to governments of the left. After all, plenty of governments of the right throughout the region have been not just corrupt, but in some cases even murderous. From the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile in which thousands of people were “disappeared” to the torture and extrajudicial executions that took place during Venezuela’s Andres Perez administration, such governments hardly compare favorably to those of the Pink Tide.
Secondly, it is important to make a distinction between left-leaning governments and the social movements and popular sectors that thrust them into power. The continued energy of these movements demonstrates that their drive to resist neoliberalism and fight for social change is as fierce as ever. Indeed, one of the most basic mistakes of these shallow op-ed columns is their failure to consider, let alone grasp, the workings of the internal dynamics of these movements and their relationships with their national governments. If anything, the fall in support for Chavismo in Venezuela among some of its traditional base has more to do with the failure of the Maduro government to maintain its engagement with the popular sectors rather than a newfound enthusiasm on their part for a return to neoliberalism and a repeat of so-called structural adjustment.
Thirdly, it is important to remember that the parties that have opposed the Pink Tide governments have been pressed to the left and have, at least publicly, adopted much of the language and ideas of their political adversaries. During the 2012 and 2013 presidential elections in Venezuela, for instance, opposition candidate Henrique Caprilles Radonski presented himself as a social democrat and the standard-bearer of the moderate left ideas of Brazilian President Luiz Ignácio da Silva (who incidentally endorsed the Chavista candidate in both cases). His campaign also used some of the enduring symbols of Chavismo, calling itself the “Bolivarian Command” and promising to not discontinue the social missions, but rather make them more efficient and less ideological. Though leaked documents subsequently revealed his plan was to make a swift about-face after the election and impose a brutal neoliberal agenda once in office, Caprilles at least understood that the immense popularity of then-President Chavez’s policies meant that he had to publicly present himself as a center-left progressive in order to stand a chance of winning. The Venezuelan opposition has also moved to the left on social issues and even fielded three LGBT candidates in the 2015 December legislative elections. Likewise, Mauricio Macri presented himself during the presidential campaign in Argentina as a pragmatist and moderate technocrat rather than a free market absolutist. As was the case with Caprilles, there is good reason to think such pronouncements were insincere (he has already rekindled Argentina’s relationship with Wall Street and filled his cabinet with bankers), but it at least demonstrates that the political center of gravity amongst Latin American publics is way to the left of the traditional forces of the right.
Fourth, we should not forget that circumstantial factors have created problems for left-leaning governments that are not of their own making. Global drops in commodity prices have made life difficult for all leaders in a region that has long been heavily based on extractivism. Whether it be oil in Venezuela, copper and zinc in Bolivia, or soybeans in Argentina, global downturns have caused problems for these governments which would have been just as pronounced had their right-wing rivals been in power instead. Dependence on exports of raw materials long predates the Pink Tide and moving out of this legacy would have been a challenge for any government.
Fifth, there is a tendency to characterize the policies of Pink Tide governments as “unsustainable.” The unsustainability argument appeals to basic intuition but is based on a false analogy—that a country’s financial situation is akin to a household budget. One could just as easily point out that with the resource wealth and technological sophistication of today’s world, there is clearly the means to provide for every person on planet earth many times over. That we are not doing so is not a failure of the left, but rather of capitalism and explicable largely in terms of the lasting legacy of colonialism and its lingering power structures. These pressures bear particularly heavily on Latin America given its long history of colonial oppression, not to mention its proximity to the major force in the world that has worked to maintain this status quo and long treated the region as its “backyard.”
Finally, therefore, it is important to consider the superpower’s lasting impact on the region. Meddling by the region’s hegemon and its internal allies has consistently caused damage to Pink Tide governments and their efforts at social reform. The United States’ aggressive stance against them is understandable given the threat they pose to its hemispheric dominance and the preeminence of its favored international organizations. Pink Tide governments have established new international bodies to realize the vision of the decades-long struggle for regional integration and provide a buffer against U.S. imperialism. The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) are attempts to transcend Washington’s “free” trade orthodoxies and forge an alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS). The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) was founded to mediate regional conflicts and could in the future provide a framework for military cooperation or freedom of movement for citizens of member nations. The monetary fund BancoSur, though still in its nascent stages, is hoped to provide an alternative source of lending free from the dictates of the IMF and the World Bank. Taken together, these organizations have provided a hope that international relations can in the future be based more on international cooperation, rather than competition, and mutual, rather than solely national, interests. This phenomenon is essentially the expression in the international realm of what Roger Harris of the Taskforce on the Americas has described as “the threat of a good example.”
Though it does not completely explain away the failures on the part of progressive governments, there has nonetheless been a clear pattern in terms of the treatment they have received from United States: the more successful Pink Tide governments have become at helping their citizenry and providing an alternative to Anglo-American neoliberalism, the greater the incentive has grown to crush this threat. When the sabotage is successful it provides a double benefit for the United States and its internal allies: in addition to making a different path unviable it also makes these policies appear as intrinsically unworkable, and thereby “proving” that the neoliberal status quo is the only way forward.
Clearly this ghost of Thatcher haunts the minds of mainstream media commentators, explaining both their lazy treatment of the facts and dogmatic commitment to making all news events fit the neoliberal agenda. What is truly important, therefore, is not so much the immediate electoral fortunes of the Pink Tide governments, but rather the efforts to defend the spirit of the movements on which they are based and the intellectual legacy of their principles. A heavy burden lies on those of us who strive to counter the new neoliberal offensive and the mendacity of its propaganda foot soldiers.
 Jackson Diehl, “Is Hugo Chavez a real threat to the U.S.?,” The Washington Post, September 27, 2010. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/26/AR2010092603334.html
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 “Venezuela, Uruguay Register Lowest Inequality in Latin America,” TeleSur, April 29, 2015. http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Venezuela-Uruguay-Register-Lowest-Inequality-in-Latin-America-20150429-0006.html
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 “Chile recognises 9,800 more victims of Pinochet’s rule,” BBC News, August 18, 2011. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-14584095
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 Tamara Pearson, “Ex Brazilian President Lula Supports Venezuela’s Maduro,” Venezuela Analysis, April 3, 2013. http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/8476
 Jody McIntyre, “Who is Henrique Capriles Radonski?,” New Internationalist. https://newint.org/blog/2012/09/25/venezuela-elections-capriles-chavez/
 Corina Pons, “Venezuela’s first transgender candidate to run for Congress,” Reuters, August 8, 2015. http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-venezuela-politics-idUKKCN0QC25P20150808
 Daniela Blei, “Is the Latin American Left Dead?,” The New Republic, April 16, 2016. https://newrepublic.com/article/132779/latin-american-left-dead
 Benedict Mander, “Argentina rekindles its relationship with Wall Street,” The Financial Times, May 12, 2016. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/6aeb9ae2-17aa-11e6-b8d5-4c1fcdbe169f.html
 Astrid Prange, “Macri to take Argentina in a new, neoliberal direction,” Deutsche Welle, December 6, 2015. http://www.dw.com/en/macri-to-take-argentina-in-a-new-neoliberal-direction/a-18898041
 Roger Harris, “Venezuela: Supporting A Once and Future Revolution,” Counterpunch, June 26, 2013. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/26/venezuela-supporting-a-once-and-future-revolution/
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Hillary Clinton refused to disclose how much money Goldman Sachs’ chief executive invested in her son-in-law’s fund, ignoring questions from The Intercept during a photo-op fundraising event in San Francisco.
The publication’s reporter, Lee Fang, visited Clinton’s campaign rally in San Francisco on Thursday, as she kept busy touring California to raise last minute support ahead of the crucial June 7 primary.
As the former secretary of state was doing photo ops, Fang jumped in with his question.
“Do you know how much money [Goldman Sachs chief executive] Lloyd Blankfein invested in your son-in-law’s hedge fund?”
In fact, he peppered her with the question, but Clinton chose not to pay any attention at all, staying focused on picture-taking with her supporters.
Moments later, Clinton’s campaign traveling press secretary Nick Merrill stepped in, but he was unable, or unwilling, to help when asked the same question.
“I don’t know, has it been reported?” Merrill responded, before promising to “email it right now” once Fang handed off his contact information.
Merrill has yet to follow up, according to Fang.
Eaglevale Partners LP, founded by Marc Mezvinsky, husband of Hillary’s daughter Chelsea Clinton, and his two partners, has been supported with investments from several wealthy names of Wall Street, including Goldman Sachs chief executive Blankfein.
The CEO also allowed the use of his name in the marketing of Mezvinsky’s flagship fund, which is currently managing about $330 million.
However, despite having Blankfein by his side, Mezvinsky and his fund suffered losses linked to an ill-timed bet on Greece’s economic recovery. It was reportedly the Clinton’s son-in-law, who recommended his investors to put their money behind Greek government bonds, betting that the Greek economy would improve.
In February 2015, the Wall Street Journal broke the news that Eaglevale admitted in a letter to its investors that it was “incorrect” on Greece. According to the newspaper, the dedicated Greek fund also included an investment from Marc Lasry, a longtime Clinton donor, who formerly employed Chelsea Clinton at his $13.3 billion New York hedge-fund firm, Avenue Capital Group.
After losing 90 percent of its value, Mezvinsky was forced to close the Greece-focused fund called Eaglevale Hellenic Opportunity earlier this year. According to The New York Times, the fund raised $25 million from investors in order to buy Greek bank stocks and government debt.
Goldman Sachs is known to have cozy financial relations with the Clintons, including the company’s paying $675,000 in personal speaking fees to Hillary Clinton as well as $1,550,000 to Bill Clinton for the same service. Donations between $250,000 and $500,000 were also made to the Clinton Foundation, The Intercept reported.
The publication has been trying to find out whether Hillary Clinton is going to release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. Fang is reported to have been the first to pose that question in January, but four months later, the likely Democratic nominee for president only laughed and turned away.
Throughout her campaign, Clinton has been repeatedly called upon to disclose her relationships with Wall Street banks, but she has so far avoided giving direct answers.
Head of the Russian General Staff told journalists that trucks carrying weapons for the al-Nusra Front cross from Turkey into Syria daily. This allows the terrorist group to continue attacking local targets.
Lt. Gen. Sergey Rudskoy said in his press briefing on Friday that weapons and ammunition are continuously being delivered to the al-Nusra Front terrorists in Syria, allowing them to engage Syrian government forces and hindering the fight against Daesh in the country.
“The never-ending flow of large trucks from Turkey carrying weapons and ammunition crosses the Turkish-Syrian border. This constant feed of live forces and weapons allows terrorists from the Nusra Front to continue their provocative shelling and make advances on Syrian government forces, which diminishes [government military] activity against Islamic State terrorists in other areas,” Rudskoy said during a briefing.
Rudskoy also added that the US has acknowledged that the heaviest fighting is centered around areas where the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front is most active.
“Everyone knows, and our US partners admit that the biggest hot spots of active military operations are those parts of the Syrian Republic where the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists from the al-Nusra Front run rampant.”
So far, according to Rudskoy, the US has refused to conduct joint operations against terrorist groups in Syria, which has led to an escalation of the conflict.
The al-Nusra Front terrorist group hampers the ceasefire efforts in northern areas of Syria, the Russian General Staff said Friday.
“It is very clear that the terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra, active in the regions of Aleppo and Idlib, is the main obstacle to expanding the ceasefire regime to northern areas of Syria,” Sergey Rudskoy, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, said.
Moreover, the Al-Nusra Front has used the ‘period of silence’ to partly restore its combat capability. Rudskoy told reporters.
Earlier, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu offered to conduct joint air strikes against terrorist groups in Syria, but the Pentagon declined the offer. However, The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry says Moscow hasn’t ruled out a possible joint operation in the future.
After Sweden Democrats reneged on earlier pledges to make a last-ditch effort to stall the decision, the Swedish parliament effortlessly railroaded through an agreement which essentially allows NATO to deploy forces in Sweden and brings the non-aligned Nordic country yet another step closer to the alliance.
The Swedish parliament ratified the so-called Host Nation Support Agreement (HNSA) after a proposal by the Left Party to put off the decision by one year, initially backed by Sweden Democrats, was voted down by 291 votes to 21.
The right-wing populist Sweden Democrats made an about-face ahead of the vote, abandoning plans team up with the Left Party, which argued that the hotly-debated deal posed a significant risk to the rights and freedoms stipulated in Sweden‘s constitution.
Despite earlier pledges by party leader Jimmie Åkesson to join efforts with the Left to stop the agreement he claimed posed “a threat to Sweden’s neutrality,” the Sweden Democrats had second thoughts in the eleventh hour and voted unanimously in favor of the controversial deal with NATO.
Remarkably, the party has been against closer NATO ties from the very beginning and officially stays true to its ideals.
Bizarrely, several Sweden Democrats party members claimed on Twitter and Facebook that they actually voted against the agreement, and that the parliament had published erroneous information on its website, news outlet Fria Tider reported.
The Left Party’s leader, Jonas Sjöstedt, condemned their usual antagonists’ U-turn.
“I am not at all surprised. The Sweden Democrats have been very wobbly on issues to do with freedom from alliances for some time now,” he said as quoted by the tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet.
Originally signed in September 2014, the HNSA allows the alliance to deploy helicopters, aircraft, ships and personnel across Swedish territory, but only at Sweden’s request. Since the agreement involved changes to Swedish regulation regarding privileges and immunities afforded NATO staff, a parliamentary ratification was necessary.
Additionally, public opinion in traditionally neutral Sweden, which boasts several centuries of non-alignment, has markedly shifted towards NATO in recent years. A survey by pollster Sifo, released in September 2015, marked the first time the majority of Swedes actually were in favor of NATO.
The HNSA may be seen as a major victory for Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, who, despite formally denouncing perspectives of joining NATO, prepared a long series of agreements that would steadily increase Sweden’s involvement with the alliance.
Yesterday, the Swedish government entrusted the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency MSB with negotiating a cooperation agreement with NATO’s Center for Strategic Communications in Riga, Latvia, in order to address the “information war” on Russia’s part, Swedish television network SVT reported. Hultqvist repeatedly urged Sweden to join the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (STRATCOM), which is charged with targeting propaganda in traditional and social media.
Despite the soothing rhetoric that such measures “would not affect non-alignment,” today Sweden has emerged as a full-fledged NATO member in all but name.
Sweden’s deliberate creeping towards NATO may set an example for its fellow neutral neighbor Finland, which has also come under immense pressure recently with respect to NATO membership.
In late April, the Finnish Foreign Ministry published an “independent” report exploring the consequences of NATO membership for Helsinki. The report’s primary conclusion was that the Nordic duo should stay together: either in both joining the alliance or declining the generous offer.
Earlier this year the Guardian launched their new campaign – “The Web We Want”. It’s an agenda driven campaign to suppress free speech and protect the ancien media regime from the alt-news revolution, in the name of protecting ethnic minorities, female writers and the LGBT community from the all the hate that pours out of the privileged fingertips of all the white men on the internet.
We have written extensively on what the Guardian really means by “the web they want”. We know their statistics are a farce and can see through their editorial double talk. Their place in a planned roll out of an idea is obvious, coinciding with political climbers from all parties making speeches attacking free speech in the name of freedom. Banning liberty because… won’t somebody please think of the children!
When the Guardian talks about “taking action” against internet abuse, we know what they mean. They mean censorship. There’s nothing more need be said. But this latest story cries out for a response.
Apparently by tracking the number of tweets that use the word “slut” or “whore” you can track the “huge scale” of social media misogyny. Yes, seriously:
The study monitored the use of the words “slut” and “whore” by UK Twitter users over three weeks from the end of April. It found that 6,500 individuals were targeted by 10,000 aggressive and misogynistic tweets in that period.
The study, conveniently published the day before Yvette Cooper launches her “Reclaim the Internet” movement, is rather vague on the details. We don’t know how they collected their data, or what their criteria for inclusion/exclusion were. Bearing that in mind we’re going to have to make some educated guesses: Since rough estimates put the number of twitter users in Britain at between 12 and 20 million people, 6,500 is roughly 1/2000th. You have, apparently, a 1/2000 chance of being “targeted” by a tweet using the word slut or whore. Personally, that is risk I am willing to take.
The study is not clear on how they select “aggressive” tweets, so we’ll have to assume they just collate all the tweets containing the word “slut” and/or “whore”. We don’t know how many of these uses are truly abusive – many may have been jokes – but it does not really matter.
Another interesting caveat:
… more than half of the offenders were women.
Yes. It seems women are the biggest misogynists of all. An interesting fact, buried in the article, made even more interesting with some context. Firstly, women make up considerably less than half of the twitter users in the UK. Less than half of the users, more than half the misogyny. Secondly, over 1/3 twitter users in Britain are between 15-24. With this context you can paint a rather more accurate picture – that the bulk of this “online misogyny” is made up of young women, aged 15-24, calling each other names (possibly in jest).
That this qualifies as a “study” at all is ludicrous, that the Guardian can try to peddle it as “shocking” is, frankly, laughable. The figures are meaningless.
Of course, this is the Guardian, so a poorly done, lazily explained statistical study must be followed by an editorial from whichever member of the Guardian’s insipid, pre-programmed writing staff happens to pull the day shift. In this instance it’s Polly Toynbee. “Why we need a feminist internet”, the headline declares, “feminist” in this instance meaning “controlled”.
She paints a picture of a dank, dark internet. A squalid, David Fincher-directed world, full of unwashed slug-like life-forms crawling over each other in an effort to spread slime and shit to every corner of the civilised world. She has nothing new to say. She repeats tired memes about free speech bullying “victims” into silence, about “trauma” and “safe spaces” and the “need to act.” She explains that women abusing each other on twitter is actually the fault of the Patriarchy, because female anger is all based on being unable to match the ideal woman presented in the media.
Like all Guardian editorials, you can discard the majority. It is designed to seed an idea, and can be reduced down to one key paragraph that pushes its agenda:
The internet has turned all discourse rougher, pushing politics and all views towards extremes. It can make individuals feel inadequate and vulnerable and let them lash out to express their own insecurities. As the Guardian’s the web we want project explores, it is in our hands to shape a civilising internet that serves us well, not one that tears civilisation apart.
There are important questions posed here: What does Toynbee mean by “our hands”? Who will this “reshaped” internet be “serving well”? What does “serves us well” mean? Does she really believe that teenaged name calling on twitter could “tear civilisation apart”? What does she really mean by “civilisation?”
To whom, or what, does a free internet REALLY pose a threat?
You’d be forgiven for reading “rougher” as slang for “more honest”, for reading “extreme” as “less controlled”. You might say the “individuals” it makes feel “inadequate”, are the workaday hacks who so consistently have their inaccurate agitprop ridiculed and corrected below the line.
With this paragraph you get the feeling of an organism protecting itself, like watching a pillbug curl in upon itself. The above is a plea for compliance. They want permission to enact a policy that leaves the definitions of “rough discourse” (see:honesty) and “civilisation” (see:establishment) open for interpretation. The repeated patterns and tired prose of the “web we want” sections have an increasing air of desperation. Again and again they wheel out the same faces to sell the same snake oil. Rather like the pillbug, it seems the Guardian’s last line of defense is to stick its head up its ass.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair can never be forgiven for taking the UK into the Iraq war, a majority of Brits said in an opinion poll.
Pollster YouGov carried out the survey ahead of the publication of the long-delayed Chilcot Inquiry report, which examines the legality of Britain’s 2003 Iraq invasion.
It found only eight percent believe Blair did nothing wrong, while 53 percent said they could never forgive him.
Some 15 percent of respondents said it was time to forgive Blair for his misjudgment.
Perhaps the most damning finding was that just 25 percent of Labour Party supporters are in favor of forgiving their former leader.
Blair was once a hero of the party, having entered Downing Street in a landslide election in 1997 and winning three consecutive general elections.
However, today he is remembered most for his decision to join the United States in invading Iraq in 2003.
A YouGov survey last year found just 26 percent of Brits believe it was right to take military action against Iraq in 2003.
The former Labour PM recently admitted he “profoundly” underestimated the complexity of Middle Eastern politics and the consequences that would ensue after the Iraq invasion.
This admission comes before the publication of the Chilcot report, which is said to be “absolutely brutal” in its verdict on the failings of the occupation.
Blair is already well aware of the criticisms in the report because of Britain’s Maxwellisation process, by which the subjects of an inquiry are allowed to respond to allegations before its conclusions are published.
Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped the former PM from intervening in Britain’s current defense policy. Earlier this week, Blair said Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) will not be defeated unless ground forces fight a “proper” war against them.
Hillary Clinton violated federal records rules by never obtaining permission to conduct official business on private email server during her tenure as secretary state, a State Department audit concluded.
The report from the State Department’s inspector general say mentions “longstanding, systemic weaknesses” in the agency’s communications even before Clinton took office there, but it singles her out as having been a particularly bad offender for her exclusive use of private, unsecured email.
“Secretary Clinton had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business with their offices, who in turn would have attempted to provide her with approved and secured means that met her business needs” says the audit, which was first obtained by Politico.
“At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department issues before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” the report continued.
The 78-page report is the culmination of a review prompted by last year’s revelations that Hillary Clinton conducted official business on a private email server, rather than the secured government servers that officials are expected to use, during her four years in the Obama administration.
The inspector general states that its findings are based on interviews with Secretary of State John Kerry, and predecessors Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice and Madeleine Albright.
Clinton and her deputies, including Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, declined the inspector general’s request for interviews, Politico reported.
The report said that State Department workers are required to use “agency-authorized information systems to conduct normal day-to-day operations” because the use of other systems “creates significant security risks.”
The inspector general went on to recommend that the State Department remind employees that the use of personal email accounts to conduct official business is “discouraged in most circumstances,” and improved policies to promote compliance by all employees – including the secretary of state. The State Department’s management concurred with these recommendations.
“While people were aware of her use of personal email, no one had a full and complete understanding of the extent,” said the State Department’s representative Mark Toner. “We acknowledge that we need to do a better job with our record keeping.”
Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon responded to the report on Wednesday, saying that the report actually showed that Clinton’s practices were consistent with previous secretaries of state.
“[A]s this report makes clear, Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email was not was not unique, and she took steps that went much further than others to appropriately preserve and release her records,” Fallon said.
Clinton herself made the same argument in a March debate. However, Politifact found that statement to be “mostly false.”
However, the State Department has apparently made progress in its record keeping systems.
“Any email that [Secretary Kerry] sends is automatically copied and saved automatically,” the agency’s Deputy Spokesman said at a press briefing. “This automatic archiving approach does comply with the Federal Records Act.”
The audit is only one part of a much larger controversy. Clinton, who is the likely Democratic presidential nominee, is currently under investigation by the FBI for potentially putting highly sensitive information at risk, a fact that has become an important talking point in the election.
Clinton has contended that since most of her emails were sent to other people in the state department, she was complying with the federal law requiring the preservation of government records.
Though the FBI’s investigation is still ongoing, the inspector general’s audit casts doubt on this defense, saying that sending emails to other State Department accounts “is not an appropriate method of preserving any such emails that would constitute a federal record.”
Clinton’s use of a private email account came to light in 2013, when a hacker going by the name of Guccifer accessed the email account of her aide Sydney Blumenthal. The hacker, whose real name is Marcel Lazar, pleaded guilty to various hacking-related offenses on Wednesday.
BETHLEHEM – After 25 years of accountability work in the occupied West Bank, Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem announced on Wednesday its decision to discontinue their strategy of holding Israeli forces accountable for their crimes against Palestinians through internal military mechanisms.
Representatives of the organization, which focuses on collecting information and documenting Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, called their complicity in Israel’s military mechanisms “morally unacceptable,” in a press briefing on Tuesday.
According to a new report released by the organization, the inefficiency of Israeli military mechanisms to provide justice for Palestinian victims led the organization to label their accountability activities as a “whitewash machine” for the continuation of the nearly 50-year Israeli military occupation of the West Bank.
“B’Tselem has gradually come to the realization that the way in which the military law enforcement system functions precludes it from the very outset from achieving justice for the victims. Nonetheless, the very fact that the system exists serves to convey a semblance of law enforcement and justice,” the report stated.
The report argued that the veneer of legal legitimacy “makes it easier to reject criticism about the injustices of the occupation, thanks to the military’s outward pretense that even it considers some acts unacceptable, and backs up this claim by saying that it is already investigating these actions.”
“In so doing, not only does the state manage to uphold the perception of a decent, moral law enforcement system, but also maintains the military’s image as an ethical military that takes action against these acts,” the report added.
Since the start of the second intifada in late 2000, of the 739 complaints filed by B’Tselem of Palestinians being killed, injured, used as human shields, or having their property damaged by Israeli forces, roughly 70 percent resulted in an investigation where no action was taken, or in an investigation never being opened.
Only three percent of cases resulted in charges being brought against the soldiers, according to the report.
Field Researcher for B’Tselem Iyad Haddad told Ma’an on Tuesday that Israeli and Palestinian NGOs worked for many years to create a “culture” of accountability in Palestinian communities plagued with deeply-rooted mistrust for Israeli military bodies, convincing Palestinians to submit complaints to the Israeli military when faced with human rights violations.
However, the organization became complicit in the violations by reinforcing the credibility of a system incapable of providing results or any semblance of justice for individuals or their families, Haddad said.
Kareem Jubran, field research director of B’Tselem, said he was “ashamed” of B’Tselem’s engagement with the military occupation during the press briefing, adding that the process forced victims to become victims a second time, as Palestinians are commonly mistreated by military investigators while their cases rarely result in accountability or justice.
“We became subcontractors to the occupation,” Yael Stein, a research director of B’Tselem, said in the conference, adding that the organization’s accountability work served to “legitimize the whole occupation.”
The decision has led the group to redesign its strategy from direct accountability to working in the “public arena” through a launch of a public awareness campaign that can “rob the system of its credibility,” Executive Director Hagai Elad said.
B’Tselem’s disengagement with internal mechanisms of the Israeli military occupation comes in the midst of an increasingly right-wing government and renewed attacks on Israeli human rights organizations.
Newly appointed ultra-right Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused B’Tselem earlier this year of being funded by the same groups financing Hamas — the Palestinian movement leading the besieged Gaza Strip’s de facto government, which has been designated a “terrorist” organization by the Israeli government — while calling B’Tselem “traitors” to the Israeli public.
In December, Ayelet Shaked, leader of the ultranationalist Israeli Home Party, pushed for a so-called “transparency” bill that would compel NGOs to reveal their sources of funding if more than 50 percent of their funding came from foreign entities, in a push to crack down on groups who receive foreign funding in order to criticize Israel.
Critics have slammed the bill, which passed its first reading in the Knesset in February, with the chairwoman of the left-leaning Meretz party Zehara Galon calling it a “continuation of the witch hunt, political persecution, and censorship of human rights groups and left-wing organizations that criticize the government’s conduct.”
Since organizations in Israel which rely on foreign funding also tend to oppose the government’s right-wing policies against Palestinians, the potential legislation is widely considered discriminatory and an attempt to weed out human rights groups working to end the large-scale human rights violations that occur in the occupied territory.
B’Tselem’s recent decision to focus on public awareness in Israeli society marks a unique shift in Israeli human rights approaches to violations against Palestinians, in a political climate where far-right views are increasingly becoming mainstream, and concerted attacks on human rights groups could be considered government policy.
Jaclynn Ashly contributed reporting from Jerusalem.
At a news conference Tuesday, I asked Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and André Carson (D-Ind.) about Hillary Clinton’s having returned money from Muslims and refusing to meet with Arab and Muslim groups in her 2000 Senate run.
Rep. Ellison indicated he didn’t know about the controversy and — while stressing his backing for Sen. Bernie Sanders, argued that Clinton was someone who has done outreach to the Muslim community. Carson lauded her as the “most traveled” secretary of state.
Ellison and Carson, Congress’ only Muslim members, spoke at the at National Press Club to discuss “Islamophobia and Hateful Rhetoric Directed At Muslims.” [See video of their response, full video (33:00) and transcript below.]
Their opening remarks focused on Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich, Peter King — all Republicans.
I had gone into the event wanting to question the manner in which they spoke — or declined to speak — about U.S. foreign policy. More on that later.
But, their emphasis on Republican transgressions, some going back to previous election cycles, I thought it important to raise the issue of Clinton’s actions and asked if there wasn’t anti-Muslim sentiment in the Democratic Party as well.
I cited a recent piece by Rania Khalek, in which she writes:
Back in 2000, during a heated U.S. Senate race in New York, Clinton came under attack for accepting political contributions from Muslim groups whose members were targets of a smear campaign generated by one of the Islamophobia industry’s most discredited operatives.
Without hesitation, Clinton condemned her Muslim supporters, returned their donations and refused to meet with Arab and Muslim Americans for the remainder of her campaign…
Ellison said: “I’m not aware of the incident. … When she came to Minnesota she specifically reached out to the Muslim community and had a sit down and talked about anti-Muslim hate. … I also know that years ago when she was Secretary of State, the Black Caucus had a meeting with her and she had recently appointed a special envoy to Muslim communities, you know — Farah Pandith — and she sat Andre and I right next to Farah because she wanted to make sure we were talking and comparing notes.”
Presuming he was being forthright, it says something about Ellison’s information flow that he would not have been aware of the controversy.
He mentioned Farah Pandith. According to her bio at the Kennedy School of Government, “Special Representative Pandith served as the Director for Middle East Regional Initiatives for the National Security Council from December 2004 to February 2007, where she was responsible for coordinating U.S. policy on ‘Muslim World’ Outreach and the Broader Middle East North Africa initiative.”
Pandith reported to Elliot Abrams at the Bush National Security Council, who is well known for his longtime backing of U.S. wars in the Mideast and Latin America.
Ellison stated that Clinton has “not in any way contributed to anti-Muslim hate. In fact Huma Abedin is one of her closest aides and Huma has been the target of anti-Muslim hate herself.”
Ellison’s defense of Clinton — and by extension the Democratic Party, since I specifically asked about that, was noteworthy. At another point in the event, he talked about how every community was guilty of bigotry to some extent.
Carson, who supports Clinton over Sanders, stated that while Clinton was recently in Indianapolis, “We helped to ensure that Muslims were not only there, they were part of the process. And there were a group of Syrian-Americans who had a moment with Secretary Clinton. … She is the most traveled Secretary of state in U.S. history. … Whenever I go to embassies that have Muslim ambassadors they talk about the bridge building that was done under her leadership as Secretary of State. … [Clinton] has a special sensitivity as it relates to issues impacting the Muslim community. As it relates to unwanted surveillance … Once she becomes president you will see Muslims in very important positions in her cabinet.”
It seems at best incredibly paltry: “Part of the process.” Syrian-Americans “had a moment.” “A moment” to discuss the fate of their country of origin. Which Syrian-Americans? Doubtlessly, there are some who want more U.S. intervention of the sort that brought disaster to Libya — which Clinton oversaw and Ellison himself backed at the time. Glen Ford has noted that Ellison has also backed a “no fly” zone in Syria.
Though she’s at times criticized Republicans for scapegoating Muslims, CNN reported: “Clinton calls for more surveillance, police after Brussels attacks.”
I actually asked the first question after their opening remarks. I had hoped that I’d get another question later about U.S. foreign policy after they had staked out their positions on foreign policy in response to other questions. However, I did not get another question in.
The deeper issue is the manner in which the question of “Islamophobia” is being dealt with: It largely excludes discussion of U.S. foreign policy, the dehumanization of Muslim lives lost, especially in U.S. attacks.
At the event, Ellison stressed that most of the victims of Daesh [ISIL] were Muslims, which is of course true, but it leaves out that most of the victims of U.S. foreign policy are Muslims — and that U.S. foreign policy has helped foster Al-Qaeda and ISIS and other sectarian groups.
You have Carson talking about how Muslim officials in embassies — almost invariably of tyrannical regimes — speak fondly of Clinton. This seems at best a dubious badge of honor.
Rep. Carson spoke in his other remarks of being on the House Intelligence Committee. He also spoke of his time growing up and being critical of law enforcement. I’ve criticized anti-Muslim bias for over twenty years, but a tacit bargain seems to have been struck whereby Muslims are “tolerated” — so long as they do not seriously critique U.S. foreign policy, and those who go along with it most will clearly be rewarded most by those who control U.S. foreign policy. Indeed, the subtext of some of Carson’s remarks is that such Muslims will be rewarded with plum positions for their apologetics.
The tension here is critical. While some who have written about Islamophobia see a meaningful resolution in incorporation of Muslims into the West, this tends to ignore the incredible violence of U.S. foreign policy. For example, John Feffer, who I know and like personally, recently wrote “Sadiq Khan and the End of Islamophobia” about the recent mayoral race in London.
There is real danger of a line of thinking that in effect charts a course of Muslims being accepted in the West in a manner that neuters any meaningful crit of foreign policy. It’s a course that explicitly or implicitly folds in the Muslim community rather than using it as a messenger to meaningful open up the Western societies in terms of challenging and ending their aggressive foreign policies and bring about a more peaceful world.
In fact, this course is incredibly dangerous because it leads to the impression of having a global dialogue when none is actually taking place about the most critical issues of U.S. government violence.
As Arun Kundnani has argued: “The promise of the ‘war on terror’ was that we would kill them ‘over there’ so they would not kill us ‘over here.’ Hence mass violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Yemen, and Somalia — in the name of peace in the West. The ‘Authorization to Use Military Force’ that the U.S. Congress passed in the days after 9/11 already defined the whole world as a battlefield in the ‘war on terror’. President Obama continues to rely on the authorization to give his drone-killing program a veneer of legality. This is the old colonial formula of liberal values at home sustained by a hidden illiberalism in the periphery — where routine extra-judicial killing is normalized.”
The remarks of Malcolm X — whose birthday just passed — and his view of the course of African Americans in the U.S. is relevant: “They have a new gimmick every year. They’re going to take one of their boys, black boys, and put him in the cabinet so he can walk around Washington with a cigar. Fire on one end and fool on the other end. And because his immediate personal problem will have been solved he will be the one to tell our people: ‘Look how much progress we’re making. I’m in Washington, D.C., I can have tea in the White House. I’m your spokesman, I’m your leader.’ While our people are still living in Harlem in the slums. Still receiving the worst form of education.”
Sam Husseini: You’ve mentioned Trump and Cruz and Carson. I think all the names that you mentioned are Republicans that you feel are guilty of some form of Islamophobia. Rania Khalek, an Arab-American writer recently had a piece recounting that in her 2000 run, Hillary Clinton — after there were allegations that she was taking quote-unquote Muslim money — returned the money and refused to meet with members of the Muslim-American and Arab community. How do you respond to something like that? Is the Democratic party itself clear of Islamophobic sentiment as well?
Keith Ellison: I can only speak on what I know about — and I’m a Bernie supporter. And I support Bernie running all the way through the election. And — but have to be honest and tell you I’m not aware of that, right?Husseini: You don’t know about this?
Ellison: Well I’m not aware of the incident. I’ll tell you what I’m aware of I know that when she came to Minneapolis, Minnesota — and this is just being fair and honest. When she came to Minnesota she specifically reached out to the Muslim community and had a sit down and talked about anti-Muslim hate. I know about that.
I also know that years ago when she was Secretary of State, the black caucus had a meeting with her and she had recently appointed a special envoy to Muslim communities, you know — Farah Pandith — and she sat Andre and I right next to Farah because she wanted to make sure we were talking and comparing notes.
Now, I don’t want to say something didn’t happen when I don’t know — when I don’t have information. But I can say that if that did happen there’s weight with her reaching out as well.
Again, I’m not trying to discredit anyone’s experience, I don’t have any information on it. But I can tell you she did some things and has not in any way contributed to anti-Muslim hate. In fact Huma Abedin is one of her closest aides and Huma has been the target of anti-Muslim hate herself and I have never sensed that Secretary Clinton is backing herself away from her association with Huma Abedin. So.
Again, I’m a Bernie guy. I’m standing up there — if you wanna talk who should be president I believe it’s Bernie Sanders, but fair’s fair and true’s true and she has no record that I’m aware of of anti-Muslim hate.
Andre Carson: As a Clinton guy (laughter)
Ellison: Did I mention that —?
Carson: As Keith stated, one of her chief advisers and closest confidants is Huma Abedin who is phenomenal. She’s a friend of mine. Secretary Clinton was in Indianapolis a few weeks ago. We helped to ensure that Muslims were not only there, they were part of the process. And there were a group of Syrian-Americans who had a moment with Secretary Clinton. If you look at her history as not only as first lady of Arkansas but first lady of the United States of America, and even Secretary of State. She is the most traveled Secretary of state in U.S. history. Let’s make that clear.
Whenever I go to embassies that have Muslim ambassadors they talk about the bridge building that was done under her leadership as Secretary of State. When I go to Muslim communities across the country and communities are divided — some are Feeling the Bern and some like me are climbing up that Hill. But they respect Secretary Clinton because she has a special sensitivity as it relates to issues impacting the Muslim community. As it relates to unwanted surveillance as it relates to outright discrimination. And I believe and we can talk about this later, that once she becomes president you will see Muslims in very important positions in her cabinet.
A newly posted video showing a glimpse of a Buk missile battery rolling down a highway in eastern Ukraine has sparked a flurry of renewed accusations blaming Russia for the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 killing 298 people. But the “dash-cam video” actually adds little to the MH-17 whodunit mystery because it could also support a narrative blaming the Ukrainian military for the disaster.
The fleeting image of the missile battery and its accompanying vehicles, presumably containing an armed escort, seems to have been taken by a car heading west on H-21 highway in the town of Makiivka, as the convoy passed by heading east, according to the private intelligence firm Stratfor and the “citizen journalism” Web site, Bellingcat.
However, even assuming that this Buk battery was the one that fired the missile that destroyed MH-17, its location in the video is to the west of both the site where Almaz-Antey, the Russian Buk manufacturer, calculated the missile was fired, around the village of Zaroshchenskoye (then under Ukrainian government control), and the 320-square-kilometer zone where the Dutch Safety Board speculated the fateful rocket originated (covering an area of mixed government and rebel control).
In other words, the question would be where the battery stopped before firing one of its missiles, assuming that this Buk system was the one that fired the missile. (The map below shows the location of Makiivka in red, Almaz-Antey’s suspected launch site in yellow, and the general vicinity of the Dutch Safety Board’s 320-square-kilometer launch zone in green.)
Another curious aspect of this and the other eight or so Internet images of Buk missiles collected by Bellingcat and supposedly showing a Buk battery rumbling around Ukraine on or about July 17, 2014, is that they are all headed east toward Russia, yet there have been no images of Buks heading west from Russia into Ukraine, a logical necessity if the Russians gave a Buk system to ethnic Russian rebels or dispatched one of their own Buk military units directly into Ukraine, suspicions that Russia and the rebels have denied.
The absence of a westward-traveling Buk battery fits with the assessment from Western intelligence agencies that the several operational Buk systems in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, were under the control of the Ukrainian military, a disclosure contained in a Dutch intelligence report released last October and implicitly confirmed by an earlier U.S. “Government Assessment” that listed weapons systems that Russia had given the rebels but didn’t mention a Buk battery.
The Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) reported that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet on July 17 belonged to the Ukrainian government. MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014.
MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” capable of downing a plane at that altitude and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country,” whereas the MIVD said the ethnic Russian rebels had only MANPADS that could not reach the higher altitudes.
On July 17, the Ukrainian military also was mounting a strong offensive against rebel positions to the north and thus the front lines were shifting rapidly, making it hard to know exactly where the borders of government and rebel control were. To the south, where the Buk missile was believed fired, the battle lines were lightly manned and hazy – because of the concentration of forces to the north – meaning that an armed Buk convoy could probably move somewhat freely.
Also, because of the offensive, the Ukrainian government feared a full-scale Russian invasion to prevent the annihilation of the rebels, explaining why Kiev was dispatching its Buk systems toward the Russian border, to defend against potential Russian air strikes.
Just a day earlier, a Ukrainian fighter flying along the border was shot down by an air-to-air missile (presumably fired by a Russian warplane), according to last October’s Dutch Safety Board report. So, tensions were high on July 17, 2014, when MH-17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, broke apart over eastern Ukraine, believed downed by a surface-to-air missile although there have been other suggestions that the plane might have been hit by an air-to-air missile.
At the time, Ukraine also was the epicenter of an “information war” that had followed a U.S.-backed coup on Feb. 22, 2014, which ousted democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and replaced the Russian-friendly leader with a fiercely nationalistic and anti-Russian regime in Kiev. The violent coup, in turn, prompted Crimea to vote 96 percent in a hasty referendum to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Eastern Ukraine and its large ethnic Russian population also revolted against the new authorities.
The U.S. government and much of the Western media, however, denied there had been a coup in Kiev, hailed the new regime as “legitimate,” and deemed Crimea’s secession a “Russian invasion.” The West also denounced the eastern Ukrainian resistance as “Russian aggression.” So, the propaganda war was almost as hot as the military fighting, a factor that has further distorted the pursuit of truth about the MH-17 tragedy.
Immediately after the MH-17 crash, the U.S. government sought to pin the blame on Russia as part of a propaganda drive to convince the European Union to join in imposing economic sanctions on Russia for its “annexation” of Crimea and its support of eastern Ukrainians resisting the Kiev regime.
However, a source briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the analysts could find no evidence that the Russians had supplied the rebels with a sophisticated Buk system or that the Russians had introduced a Buk battery under their own command. The source said the initial intelligence suggested that an undisciplined Ukrainian military team was responsible.
Yet, on July 20, 2014, just three days after the tragedy, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on all Sunday morning talk shows and blamed the Russian-backed rebels and implicitly Moscow. He cited some “social media” comments and – on NBC’s “Meet the Press” – added: “We picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”
Two days later, on July 22, the Obama administration released a “Government Assessment” that tried to bolster Kerry’s accusations, in part, by listing the various weapons systems that U.S. intelligence believed Russia had provided the rebels, but a Buk battery was not among them. At background briefings for selected mainstream media reporters, U.S. intelligence analysts struggled to back up the administration’s case against Russia.
For instance, the analysts suggested to a Los Angeles Times reporter that Ukrainian government soldiers manning the suspected Buk battery may have switched to the rebel side before firing the missile. The Times wrote: “U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [Buk anti-aircraft missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.”
However, after that July 22 briefing — as U.S. intelligence analysts continued to pore over satellite imagery, telephonic intercepts and other data to refine their understanding of the tragedy — the U.S. government went curiously silent, refusing to make any updates or adjustments to its initial rush to judgment, a silence that has continued ever since.
Meanwhile, the source who continued receiving briefings from the U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the reason for going quiet was that the more detailed evidence pointed toward a rogue element of the Ukrainian military connected to a hardline Ukrainian oligarch, with the possible motive the shooting down of President Vladimir Putin’s plane returning from a state visit to South America.
In that scenario, a Ukrainian fighter jet in the vicinity (as reported by several eyewitnesses on the ground) was there primarily as a spotter, seeking to identify the target. But Putin’s plane, with similar markings to MH-17, took a more northerly route and landed safely in Moscow.
Though I was unable to determine whether the source’s analysts represented a dissenting or consensus opinion inside the U.S. intelligence community, some of the now public evidence could fit with that narrative, including why the suspected Buk system was pushing eastward as close to or even into “rebel” territory on July 17.
If Putin was the target, the attackers would need to spread immediate confusion about who was responsible to avoid massive retaliation by Moscow. A perfect cover story would be that Putin’s plane was shot down accidentally by his ethnic Russian allies or even his own troops, the ultimate case of being hoisted on his own petard.
Such a risky operation also would prepare disinformation for release after the attack to create more of a smokescreen and to gain control of the narrative, including planting material on the Internet to be disseminated by friendly or credulous media outlets.
The Ukrainian government has denied having a fighter jet in the air at the time of the MH-17 shoot-down and has denied that any of its Buk or other anti-aircraft systems were involved.
Yet, whatever the truth, U.S. intelligence clearly knows a great deal more than it has been willing to share with the public or even with the Dutch-led investigations. Last October, more than a year after the shoot-down, the Dutch Safety Board was unable to say who was responsible and could only approximate the location of the missile firing inside a 320-square-kilometer area, whereas Kerry had claimed three days after the crash that the U.S. government knew the launch point.
Earlier this year, Fred Westerbeke, the chief prosecutor of the Dutch-led Joint Investigative Team [JIT], provided a partial update to the Dutch family members of MH-17 victims, explaining that he hoped to have a more precise fix on the firing site by the second half of 2016, i.e., possibly more than two years after the tragedy.
Westerbeke’s letter acknowledged that the investigators lacked “primary raw radar images” which could have revealed a missile or a military aircraft in the vicinity of MH-17. That apparently was because Ukrainian authorities had shut down their primary radar facilities supposedly for maintenance, leaving only secondary radar which would show commercial aircraft but not military planes or rockets.
Russian officials have said their radar data suggest that a Ukrainian warplane might have fired on MH-17 with an air-to-air missile, a possibility that is difficult to rule out without examining primary radar which has so far not been available. Primary radar data also might have picked up a ground-fired missile, Westerbeke wrote.
“Raw primary radar data could provide information on the rocket trajectory,” Westerbeke wrote. “The JIT does not have that information yet. JIT has questioned a member of the Ukrainian air traffic control and a Ukrainian radar specialist. They explained why no primary radar images were saved in Ukraine.” Westerbeke said investigators are also asking Russia about its data.
Westerbeke added that the JIT had “no video or film of the launch or the trajectory of the rocket.” Nor, he said, do the investigators have satellite photos of the rocket launch.
“The clouds on the part of the day of the downing of MH17 prevented usable pictures of the launch site from being available,” he wrote. “There are pictures from just before and just after July 17th and they are an asset in the investigation.”
Though Westerbeke provided no details, the Russian military released a number of satellite images purporting to show Ukrainian government Buk missile systems north of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk before the attack, including two batteries that purportedly were shifted 50 kilometers south of Donetsk on July 17, the day of the crash, and then removed by July 18.
Russian Lt. Gen. Andrey Kartopolov called on the Ukrainian government to explain the movements of its Buk systems and why Kiev’s Kupol-M19S18 radars, which coordinate the flight of Buk missiles, showed increased activity leading up to the July 17 shoot-down.
Part of the reason that the MH-17 mystery has remained unsolved is that the U.S. government insists that its satellite surveillance, which includes infrared detection of heat sources as well as highly precise photographic imagery, remains a “state secret” that cannot be made public.
However, in similar past incidents, the U.S. government has declassified sensitive information. For instance, after a Soviet pilot accidentally shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007 over Russian territory in 1983, the Reagan administration revealed the U.S. capability to intercept Soviet ground-to-air military communications in order to make the Soviets look even worse by selectively editing the intercepts to present the destruction of the civilian aircraft as willful.
In that case, too, the U.S. government let its propaganda needs overwhelm any commitment to the truth, as Alvin A. Snyder, who in 1983 was director of the U.S. Information Agency’s television and film division, wrote in his 1995 book, Warriors of Disinformation.
After KAL-007 was shot down, “the Reagan administration’s spin machine began cranking up,” Snyder wrote. “The objective, quite simply, was to heap as much abuse on the Soviet Union as possible. … The American media swallowed the U.S. government line without reservation.”
On Sept. 6, 1983, the Reagan administration went so far as to present a doctored transcript of the intercepts to the United Nations Security Council. “The perception we wanted to convey was that the Soviet Union had cold-bloodedly carried out a barbaric act,” Snyder wrote.
Only a decade later, when Snyder saw the complete transcripts — including the portions that the Reagan administration had excised — would he fully realize how many of the central elements of the U.S. presentation were lies.
Snyder concluded, “The moral of the story is that all governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first.” [For more details on the KAL-007 deception and the history of U.S. trickery, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A Dodgy Dossier on Syrian War.”]
In the MH-17 case, the Obama administration let Kerry present the rush to judgment fingering the Russians and the rebels but then kept all the evidence secret even though the U.S. government’s satellite capabilities are well-known. By refusing to declassify any information for the MH-17 investigation, Washington has succeeded in maintaining the widespread impression that Moscow was responsible for the tragedy without having to prove it.
The source who was briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that the Obama administration considered “coming clean” about the MH-17 case in March, when Thomas Schansman, the Dutch father of the only American victim, was pleading for the U.S. government’s cooperation, but administration officials ultimately decided to keep quiet because to do otherwise would have “reversed the narrative.”
In the meantime, outfits such as Bellingcat have been free to reinforce the impression of Russian guilt, even as some of those claims have proved false. For instance, Bellingcat directed a news crew from Australia’s “60 Minutes” to a location outside Luhansk (near the Russian border) that the group had identified as the site for the “getaway video” showing a Buk battery with one missile missing.
The “60 Minutes” crew went to the spot and pretended to be at the place shown in the video, but none of the landmarks matched up, which became obvious when screen grabs of the video were placed next to the scene of the Australian crew’s stand-upper. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Fake Evidence Blaming Russia for MH-17.”]
Yet, reflecting the deep-seated mainstream media bias on the MH-17 case, the Australian program reacted angrily to my pointing out the obvious discrepancies. In a follow-up, the show denounced me but could only cite a utility pole in its footage that looked similar to a utility pole in the video.
While it’s true that utility poles tend to look alike, in this case none of the surroundings did, including the placement of the foliage and a house shown in the video that isn’t present in the Australian program’s shot. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “A Reckless Stand-upper on MH-17.”]
But the impact of the nearly two years of one-sided coverage of the MH-17 case in the mainstream Western media has been considerable. In the last few days, a lawyer for the families of Australian victims announced the filing of a lawsuit against Russia and Putin in the European court for human rights seeking compensation of $10 million per passenger. Many of the West’s news articles on the lawsuit assume Russia’s guilt.
In other words, whatever the truth about the MH-17 shoot-down, the tragedy has proven to be worth its weight in propaganda gold against Russia and Putin, even as the U.S. government hides the actual proof that might show exactly who was responsible.
(Research by Assistant Editor Chelsea Gilmour.)
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).